Craig Cathcart urges Northern Ireland to not dwell on Switzerland setback
Craig Cathcart accepts there is no point in Northern Ireland feeling sorry for themselves after another refereeing controversy against Switzerland appeared to have ended hopes of reaching next year’s World Cup.
Jamal Lewis’ shock red card – the Newcastle left-back receiving a second yellow for taking too long over a first-half throw-in – was a key moment as Northern Ireland lost 2-0 in Geneva.
For it to happen against the Swiss – who beat Northern Ireland in a World Cup qualifying play-off four years ago thanks to a much-disputed penalty – just rubbed salt in the wounds.
“It’s incredible but you can’t dwell on it too much,” Cathcart said. “You have to accept it because there’s nothing you can do to change it.”
Taking a 37th-minute throw-in, Lewis had the ball in his hands for 17 seconds before referee Slavko Vincic blew his whistle, reaching for a card and briefly pausing as he realised he had already booked Lewis for a tug on Breel Embolo.
Cathcart, 32, said he had never seen a red card quite like it, and suggested Vincic had been influenced by the Stade de Geneve crowd.
“I don’t even think we were taking that long with free-kicks, corners and throw-ins before then, but the crowd were whistling and they seemed to put a bit of pressure on him,” the Watford defender said. “I don’t know how long Jamal had the ball but it didn’t feel that long.
“It was really strange.”
Northern Ireland, already depleted by injuries, needed to reach half-time to regroup, but conceded in the third minute of three added on when a couple of lucky bounces helped Steven Zuber get through on goal.
It made for a bitter mood in the Northern Ireland dressing room at the break.
“We were obviously angry about the sending-off and frustrated with the goal we conceded,” Cathcart said. “If we’d gotten to half-time, we would have had something to hang on to in the second half, but we had to deal with it.”
Northern Ireland came out after the interval and defended robustly, with Switzerland not getting the second until substitute Christian Fassnacht broke clear in stoppage time.
“The one thing we always have is the team spirit and we’ll never give up until the final whistle, and Saturday was no different,” Cathcart added. “I think we can take confidence in that we were down to 10 men against a really good Swiss team with some really good players.”
Defeat leaves Northern Ireland nine points adrift of group leaders Italy and six behind Switzerland with only three games left to play, starting away to Bulgaria tomorrow.
“It’s definitely going to be tricky now but we just have to focus on ourselves and not think about what any other team is doing,” Cathcart said. “All we do is try to get maximum points from our three games and see where it takes us.”
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